2011 Cricket World Cup Preview: The Top 8 Teams

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Rohan Sharma provides a 2011 Cricket World Cup Preview for the top 8 teams including the key players to watch out for, starting lineups, and predictions for how things will pan out.

WEST INDIES

Outlook

The current crop of players may be far from the impenetrable unit of the 1970s and 1980s but there is a happy mix of youth and experience with the team. Darren Sammy, a relative newcomer to the captaincy, will have plenty on his hands but should be aided with the addition of seasoned players in Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Gayle and Dwayne Bravo. Their collective experiences of playing on the subcontinent should add substance to the top and middle order. The team looks balanced on paper but the reliance on part timers could thwart their chances of progressing into the later stages come crunch time. There is the addition of vital talent in Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo who is considered the very incarnate of Brian Lara, which is reflected quite greatly through the manner in which he executes his shots with an exaggerated back lift. Kemar Roach also promises to be an exciting player with pace to match the likes of Shaun Tait and Lasith Malinga. Sulieman Benn will take on the role as lead spinner, a crucial player when it comes to subcontinent pitches.

Key Players

Look out for Chris Gayle as a lot will depend on him to provide a bracing start to the innings and help galvanize the middle order into compiling big scores which is the key on subcontinent pitches. How well he sees the ball will be very crucial to the West Indies’ chance of progressing into the latter stages of the tournament. On his day he is one of the most destructive batsmen in the game and the opposition would be foolish to consider him any less despite his recent shun in the IPL auction.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the owner of the crabbiest technique in the game is another vital cog in the middle order that can shift different gears depending on the situation. He will most likely play the anchor role within the innings as a reflection of his experience and ability. He will be a wicket most sought after by the opposition and if he has a productive tournament then the West Indies have a great chance in pushing for quarter finals.

Keiron Pollard’s ability to clear the ground on a regular basis will be instrumental in the later stages of the innings and if the ball lands in his zone be rest assured it will be out of the park. His big hitting ability is rivalled only by Yusuf Pathan and as such his wicket could make or break the team’s chances of accumulating a big score. His recent years of experience through the IPL should help lend confidence and he could prove to be an irresistible talent as the tournament unfolds.

Should Finish in: Quarter finals

Probable World Cup Lineup

Chris Gayle, Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Keiron Pollard, Cartlon Baugh (w/k), Darren Sammy (c), Sulieman Benn, Kemar Roach

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NEW ZEALAND

Outlook

New Zealand would be looking to quickly forget their recent exploits in the subcontinent over the past year with back-to-back whitewashes against Bangladesh followed by India. The team is relatively inexperienced with a lot of fresh talent from the previous edition. Daniel Vettori will lead the team once again in his final tournament as captain of New Zealand and thus will hope to leave his mark on the tournament. Traditionally New Zealand have done considerably well in the World Cup with semi-final appearances in 2007 and 1999. They have consistently made the final stages of the tournament but this year their record looks to be threatened as Bangladesh look to usurp them. Their team consists of a variety of part-time options as bowling resources are scarce since the retirement of Shane Bond, their lead strike bowler. Undoubtedly the inclusion of Scott Styris will add some much needed experience in the middle order and bowling stocks.

Key Players

Daniel Vettori, a leading all-rounder on the world’s stage for quite some time, will again be the pivotal figure for the team and a good tournament for him will go a long way in lending confidence to the rest of the troop. He could prove to be the lone strike bowler within the team and has an economy rate which matches the best. He must contribute significantly with the bat as well for his side to compile a reasonable total and his experience and tactical nous should help the team considerably.

The ever controversial Jesse Ryder’s inclusion within the squad is a strategic masterstroke in that he has enjoyed very successful series in the subcontinent and has an impressive record against India. When he gets going he is as good as the best of them and is vital for providing the impetus at the top of the order. He relies heavily on precise hand-eye coordination and can pick off length balls for boundaries. He is far more consistent than Brendon McCullum at the top of the order and as such will be a heavily prized wicket for the opposition.

Should Finish in: Quarter Finals

Probable World Cup Lineup

Brendon McCullum (w/k), Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Scott Styris, Nathan McCullum, Daniel Vettori (c), Jacob Oram, James Franklin, Tim Southee

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PAKISTAN

Ah Pakistan, a team more mired by off-field controversy and sensationalism than any other on the international circuit. For long its off-field activities have captured headlines and have seemingly helped detract from the indifferent performance its team has given over the past year or so. While the team has retained a number of older players there are some fresh cherubs thrown into the mix which can hopefully help provide much needed invigoration within its ranks. The bowling stocks are promising as ever with much needed variety through the pace of Shoaib, the guile of Gul and the mystery that is Ajmal. Pakistan’s batting strength may be its bane as the missing solidity of Yousuf will be felt.

Key Players

Abdul Razzaq’s wondrous 109 against England in which he took Pakistan from nowhere into victory through stand and deliver hitting marks him out again as a dangerous player who can turn a contest on its head. A bowler by trade he has developed into a fearsome lower order batsman who is capable of hitting boundaries as soon as he arrives. When on song he is one of the cleanest hitters of the game and if he and Afridi can get going there promises to be much fireworks. He also happens to be a more than decent medium fast bowler who is capable of opening the attack or coming in as a third or fourth seamer. Razzaq provides much needed balance within the team and should be operating at all cylinders if Pakistan is to expect to progress far in the tournament.

Umar Gul is arguably one of the best death overs specialists in the world and almost appears to bowl Yorkers at commands. He is quick enough to ruffle up the best batsman in the world and when the ball swings he is even more lethal and can completely derail a batting lineup on his own. He has good company in the likes of Shoaib and Tanvir who provide much needed variety within the seam attack.

Should Finish in: Quarter Finals

Probable World Cup Lineup:

Mohammed Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (w/k), Younis Khan, Misbah ul-haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi (c), Abdur Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal

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ENGLAND

Outlook

On the back of a successful Ashes series in Australia, England’s team spirits will be high. While they eventually lost the ODI series, they will not feel too hard pressed as conditions are vastly different from those experienced on the subcontinent. In terms of the makeup of the team they look a very balanced squad. Their decision to choose Matt Prior over Steve Davies as the sole wicketkeeper will be an interesting selection to observe as undoubtedly his maturity and experience gave him the edge.  Strauss will feel confidence in having a rather settled unit with an array of viable backup players to choose from as well. One important consideration is the need to put up big scores and consistently if the team expects to progress far into the tournament. Their bowling attack is one of the best going round and very capable of taking ten wickets each and every match.

Key Players

Kevin Pietersen will be looked upon as a star performer within the squad. The aura around the man has largely diminished as a result of a rather indifferent run of form over the last year or so. A lot depends on him for England to consistently put up big totals. He proves once again to be a vital cog in the middle order and his experience in India should help in eradicating any ghosts he has. He is a player for the big stage and as such the World Cup should see the best out of him, at least England would hope this is the case.

A lot rests on Graeme Swann’s shoulders as he comes in as lead spinner for the team. He has enjoyed a very successful year and has undoubtedly become the best spinner in the world. He will surely be licking his lips at the prospect of playing on these spin-friendly pitches and will be a vital strike bowler for Andrew Strauss. If he takes a pile of wickets he can help push England into the latter stages of the tournament. His ability to utilize flight and guile will go a long way in encouraging doubt in the batsman’s mind.

Should Finish in: Quarter Finals

Probable World Cup Lineup:

Andrew Strauss (C), Matt Prior (WK), Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson

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SRI LANKA

Outlook

Sri Lanka has risen dramatically over the last few years to turn into a fearsome ODI unit. Their utter disbandment of Australia in their own backyard demonstrated the ruthless and efficient streak inherent within the team. On paper they have one of the most balanced squads in the tournament with batsman capable of hitting out of the park and strike bowlers that could take out the best of them. What makes this team even more dangerous is that the tournament will be played at home which has proven to be a fortress for many a visiting team. The return of Muttiah Muralitharan to the ODI fold will greatly bolster the bowling ranks as his sheer experience and wicket taking ability provide an important prong for the attack. The likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela also provide much needed strength to the middle order and should allow a good foundation for the team to compile huge scores.

Key Players

Kumar Sangakkara has developed into one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen in the world. This erudite Sri Lankan has shown his class time and time again and has scored a mountain of runs in the crucial No. 3 spot. As a leader he has instilled much belief within the team through the example he sets and his ruthless and cutthroat nature has resonated through its ranks. In a way this team plays like the Australians of old in their professional and efficient manner in which they play their cricket. Kumar will undoubtedly be a much sought after wicket for the opposition and an important cog for the team if they expect to progress far into the tournament.

Lasith Malinga is arguably one of the most complete bowlers in the world with a variety of balls and bouncers he can employ at the batsman. While he gets natural out swing through his slinging action, he is capable of swinging it back into the pads. Not to mention having one of the wickedest bouncers in the game. He can bowl at the speed of light and even employs the use of the slow bouncer which has taken many a wicket. He will be the strike leader for the attack and Kumar will look to him for getting early breakthroughs for the team.

Muttiah Muralitharan, the grand master himself Muttiah will look to close out this edition on a high as he attempts to equal the efforts of his previous captain and mentor Arjuna Ranatunga and win the World Cup after the Lankans were so close to the Holy Grail in 2007. He is a canny bowler with mesmerizing eyes who can outthink his opposite with a variety of balls not to mention his most famous doosra. On spin-friendly wickets as offered within the sub-continent he should prove to be a handful for even the best and will prove to be a vital cog for the attack.

Should Finish in: Semi Finals

Probable World Cup Lineup:

TIllakratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (c/wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaweera, Chamara Kapugadera, Angelo Matthews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan

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AUSTRALIA

Outlook

The number one ODI team going at the moment, the team would certainly be running on a high with their recent ODI series victory against England back home. This was a team for the most part running low on confidence with series losses against India and then England. The exodus of star players over the last couple of years has proven more than detrimental to the psyche within the team and a lot of questions have arisen around Ponting’s role within the team not only as captain, but as a batsman as well. His poor form has highlighted the fallibilities within the team. The 4 time winners will be looking to make it 5 and this tournament will answer a lot of selection queries as to what team we should see coming onto the field over the  next few years. While they have a very strong team on paper they lack the Australian mentality of old of digging in and fighting for the victory. This will be one of the first tournaments in recent times where they go in not as favourites but outside contenders for the trophy.

Key Players

Brett Lee has enjoyed a largely successful return into the ODI team after a battle against long-standing injuries and while he is not the bowler of old, one capable of touching the 160 km/h mark, he has cut down a bit on pace and has made up for it in the use of swing and seam movement to spark errors from the opposing batsmen. He will be looked on as the strike leader for the team and will be part of a largely formidable attack with the inconsistent yet deadly Mitchell Johnson and the out and out pace of Shaun Tait. This will be his last World Cup and as such he will look at this tournament as an opportunity to seal his legacy within the team.

Shane Watson, an individual who was once as fragile as porcelain has made a remarkable turnaround and has emerged as one of the leading all-rounder in the game. He is a hugely vital player for the Aussies as they rely on him for opening the batting and coming in as change seamer to provide vital breakthroughs when the team is in need. Both his wicket-taking ability and economy rate have improved immeasurably and he provides much needed balance within the squad. The opposition would be very weary of this solidly built Queenslander and his wicket will be sought after accordingly.

Should Finish in: Semi Finals

Probable World Cup Lineup:

Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (WK), Ricky Ponting (C), Michael Clarke, Cameron White, Callum Ferguson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Nathan Hauritz, Shaun Tait

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SOUTH AFRICA

The Proteas, the archetypal “Spaniards” of the cricketing world, have had to deal with much ignominy in the manner in which they have exited previous editions, despite fielding some of the strongest teams. Once again they hold favourites tag as they possess a balanced yet powerful squad. They have greater variety in their bowling attack with the speed merchants of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, coupled with the left-arm variety of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and the spinning guile of Johan Botha. Furthermore they have a strong bastion of batsmen, led by Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers who have enjoyed a remarkable run of form over the past year. Anything less than a semi-final place will be viewed as a disappointing campaign back home and Graeme Smith promises this team will deliver. Only time will tell as the subcontinent has been a most cruel mistress.

Key Players

Hashim Amla has posed a most curious case for the ardent cricket supporter. A player touted as too slow for the quick-pace ODI and T20 game has exploded into one of the most explosive and consistent limited overs performers over the last year. His average touches a mind-boggling 60 with a strike rate approaching 94. A batsman like that can’t be bought for love or money. He emulates Tendulkar in his ability to play smart, risk-free cricket by relying on percentages and utilizing the power plays effectively. He will be a vital cog for South Africa and can look within to his own success on the subcontinent for inspiration.

AB de Villiers is finally living up to his billing as being the future of South African batting with his proven ability to change gears and play according to the situation. A batsman who seamlessly fuses the orthodox with unorthodox, he is a highly unconventional player with a game that pleases the eye. He is far more experienced from the last edition and has enjoyed a remarkable run of form of late in all formats. His role is crucial for South Africa’s success in this tournament and if he scores heavily can propel the Proteas into the finals with ease.

Dale Steyn is the best fast bowler of his generation. He has proven to be a worthy successor to Allan Donald and has developed into a dangerous weapon for Graeme Smith. He has pace, aggression and can move the ball bowl ways. He consistently troubles the best in the business and is the undisputed strike leader for South Africa. Count on him to nip a few early wickets quickly to push the pressure. He has benefitted greatly from having Morne Morkel as his fast bowling partner and together they have proven to be more than a handful. Opposition batsman will be both wary and respectful of his presence, and should make for fascinating viewing once the crunch games roll in.

Should Finish in: Final

Probable World Cup Lineup:

Graeme Smith (C), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (WK), JP Duminy, FAF du Plessis, Morne van Wyk, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe

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INDIA

One of the most consistent teams over many years India enters the tournament as hot favourites with expectations that match the lofty fanaticism of its fan. The current squad has enjoyed much success on the subcontinent of late and will appreciate the home conditions. This tournament marks their best chance of repeating the heroics of the 1983 outfit and for that to be done at home would truly be special. While the bowling unit is relatively lighter in comparison to some of the other strong contenders, its batting more than makes up for it. In what will undoubtedly be Sachin’s final tournament he knows this tournament will the best way in which to mark his legacy forever and confirm his place in the annals as the greatest since Bradman. The plan will be simple for the Indians, bat first and post staggering totals with a lineup that runs long and deep. Their insight into the conditions and how the pitches will play out will be invaluable as they take on the likes of the Australians, English and South Africans.  Anything less than a World Cup triumph will be seen as a failed opportunity for both the team and fans alike. This could very well be their year.

Key Players

The ominous Virender Sehwag will be looked upon to provide blazing starts with Tendulkar and push the bowlers onto the backfoot and deflate the fielding team’s spirits. Depending on the scale of runs he scores could prove a vital difference between mission success and failure. He will be expected to deal in boundaries and keep the run rate high as India look for the perfect start to their innings. He must learn to adopt his Test match batting ability into the limited overs format and bat as long as possible to give the team the best of chances. His will be a wicket most sought after by the opposition.

Yusuf Pathan finds himself in a unique place as his remarkable run of form and big hitting ability give him valuable responsibility in the later middle order. He has proven over the recent tour of South Africa that he is very much a big game players, who brings out his very best when the chips are down and the runs are required. This is an important distinction when one compares him to the player who most closely resembles him in the Trinidadian Keiron Pollard. His presence could mean an addition 30-40 runs down the order as the innings creeps to a close. Having him also allows Dhoni greater spin options as his offspin can prove more than useful on occasion.

The undisputed leader of the attack Zaheer Khan will be touted by many within the team as the most essential element to India’s rise to the top of the Test rankings over the last few years. His remarkable consistency to pick up crucial scalps on dead subcontinental pitches has been a vast boon for Dhoni. He is one of the most intelligent bowlers in the game and uses cunning and guile to take out his opposite number. He has all the components required and his development of a crafty slower bouncer has completed his overall maturity as a bowler. An outstanding tournament for him would go a long way in securing India’s aspirations of a second world title.

Should Finish in: Final

Probable World Cup Lineup:

Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (C/WK), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra

Where to Next?

Cricket World Cup Predictions: The Leading Wicket Taker

Cricket World Cup Predictions: The Leading Run Scorer

Cricket World Cup Predictions: The Surprise Package


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Comments

  1. ali akbar says

    you have supposed wrong about other teams and especially pakistan the final will not be South Africa VS India.

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